The Burma Strategy Group, the intellectual wing of the Washington, D.C.-based Free Burma Coalition released a statement December 9 welcoming cautiously the National Convention proposed by Burma's ruling State Peace and Development Council (SPDC).
In an interview with VOA Burmese Service, Dr. Zarni, founder of FBC, said this cautious endorsement was, in his words, "motivated by our common desire for solving Burma's decades-long political problems in a peaceful manner".
He further emphasized his group's belief that Burmese prime minister General Khin Nyunt's proposal to convene a National Convention is "a first step in the right direction for our country (Burma), which has long been devastated by political conflicts, economic decay and ethnic discontent."
Dr. Zarni said Free Burma Coalition welcomes this Convention, in principle, "if it could amount to a national dialogue among people's delegates and the military rulers that fosters a free flow of ideas and views in seeking lasting solutions to the country's problems."
However, Dr. Zarni said, this endorsement is contingent upon the fact that the National Convention is truly national and inclusive, meaning, Nobel laureate Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, her party the National League for Democracy (NLD) and members of the Committee Representing People's Representatives (CRPP)and all other ethnic groups and parties participate actively in this forum of national dialogue.
The Free Burma Coalition leader also reiterated that his group was the first to initiate international campaigns for sanctions against the military junta -- in line with Aung San Suu Kyi's policy -- and also the first to recognize the CRPP -- a committee of elected members of parliament in the 1990 election.
Dr. Zarni said he welcomes the 11-nation Burma Roadmap discussion in Bangkok on December 15 where Burmese officials will talk about the seven-point road map as advanced by General Khin Nyunt to officials from Austria, France, Germany, Italy, China, India, Japan, Indonesia, Singapore and Thailand.
He also considers the Karen National Union and SPDC's cease-fire agreement that came into effect on December 8, as something to be welcomed because a lasting internal peace could foster an all-round development in Burma. But, he hopes, this new development would progress to ensure peace and national reconciliation.
Dr. Zarni told VOA that he fervently prays and wishes that the NLD and CRPP would also try to participate in the National Convention and work for the larger good of the country through free and frank exchange of ideas there.